NAWG Weekly Update: April 23, 2015

Grain Standards Act Reauthorization Efforts Underway
On Monday, NAWG sent a letter to members of the House Agriculture Committee concerning NAWG’s priorities for reauthorization of the Grain Standards Act. The Act, which governs grain inspections for export and authorizes the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), is up for reauthorization this year and is under consideration by both chambers of Congress. Specifically, NAWG is opposed to allowing inspections by private entities and supports continuing FGIS’ ability to delegate inspection authority to states. A copy of NAWG’s letter can be viewed here.

Yesterday, the House Agriculture Committee’s General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee held a hearing to review the Grain Standards Act ahead of its reauthorization efforts. During the hearing, the Subcommittee heard testimony from David Winkles, president of the South Carolina Farm Bureau Federation; David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees; and Nick Friant, business unit food safety leader at Cargill in Minnesota, representing the National Grain and Feed Association and the North American Export Grain Association. Information about the hearing, including testimony, can be found at this link. Draft bill text for the reauthorization process is expected to be released soon. The Senate Agriculture Committee is also expected to begin its process soon as well. NAWG will continue to actively monitor the process on behalf of wheat growers.

Senate Committee on Agriculture Discusses Trade with Cuba
The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry met on Tuesday to discuss the benefits and potential costs of opening agricultural trade with Cuba. Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) began the discussion by stating that granting Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is good for agriculture and that international trade is vital to our nation. He concluded by stating, “Agriculture has long been used as a tool, not a weapon, a tool for peace and stability.” USDA Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services Michael Scuse cited the fact that Cuba currently imports around 80 percent of the food its people eat. The 11 million Cuban citizens, he observed, represent a large potential market for American ag producers.

Also among the witnesses was Doug Keesling, a fifth-generation farmer and commissioner of Kansas Wheat. Referencing his recent fact-finding trip to Cuba, he stated, “Cubans eat a lot of it [wheat], and they’re the largest wheat importer in the Caribbean, to the tune of nearly 30 million bushels per year. That would be over 10 percent of all the wheat grown in Kansas going to this one island just a couple days’ sail from U.S. ports.” Other testimonies continued to focus on the great opportunities ag trade with Cuba would create for American farmers.

A full transcript of all witness testimonies, as well as a recording of the hearing, can be found at the Senate Ag Committee’s website.

Senate and House Committees Consider Trade Promotion Authority
On Tuesday, April 21, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing concerning Trade Promotion Authority, where the committee heard testimony from Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and from Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. The hearing preceded the Finance Committee’s Wednesday consideration of S. 995, bipartisan legislation to renew Trade Promotion Authority. A summary of the legislation as introduced can be found at this link. During the markup, the Committee considered a number of amendments and adopted three. Adopted amendments include: one from Senator Cardin (D-MD) that would add a negotiating objective with the intent of enhancing U.S.-Israel trade; a second amendment from Senator Cardin to make the human rights/good governance negotiating objective a principal goal; and an amendment from Senator Menendez (D-NJ) that would prohibit TPA from applying to trade agreements with countries that don’t sufficiently combat human trafficking.

On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee also began consideration of the TPA legislation. As of this writing, the markup hadn’t yet concluded, but updates can be found at the Committee’s website.

NAWG Participates in Field to Market Meeting
NAWG Treasurer David Schemm participated in the Field to Market meeting last week at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. Field to Market is working within the agriculture supply chain on sustainability metrics and fieldprint projects with individual food company members. As consumers become more interested in purchasing sustainably grown food, food companies and retailers are looking to work within the supply chain to highlight sustainable production in the United States. NAWG has been a member of Field to Market for several years, seeking to ensure a greater understanding of wheat production and advocating for wheat growers. During the meeting, the workgroups and separate membership sectors had a chance to meet face to face and discuss work for the coming year. The General Assembly met to review the organization’s business plan, membership and dues structure. Schemm represents NAWG on the Technology workgroup and Keira Franz represents NAWG on the Information, Communication and Education workgroup.

Palmer Presents Closing Remarks at McFadden Lecture
On Monday, NAWG CEO Jim Palmer gave closing remarks at the Edgar S. McFadden Lecture on Wheat Improvement held in Washington, D.C., at the USDA Whitten Building. The program included Kevin D. Kephart, vice president for Research and Economic Development at South Dakota State University. His talk was entitled “Foundations for the Green Revolution: The Insights of Edgar S. McFadden and Norman E. Borlaug.” Edgar McFadden envisioned and accomplished the first major breakthrough in conferring genetic resistance to stem rust in wheat. His work set the stage for the successes of Dr. Norman Borlaug and is still making a critical difference today in food production. NAWG looks forward to the continued partnership with SDSU and the Edgar S. McFadden Endowment for Wheat Improvement.